A popular (and somewhat abundant) tree in the Northland is commanding big money on the open market - leading to theft from both public and privately-held land.  Douglas County officials are reporting an increase in the theft of Birch trees from woods they own and maintain.

According to news sources, the rise in the theft of Birch trees mirrors what occurred about four years ago.  White Birch trees are native to the Northland and they command a premium price on the commercial market for their use as decorations.  The Superior Telegram reports that "[t]he saplings are sold for use as decorations - everything from lighted branches to White Birch sticks that sell for $10.00 or more each".

That $10.00 price doesn't reflect the value of what they would command once fully grown.  Douglas County Director of Forestry Jon Harris suggests that the future cost of the today's theft isn't fully-appreciated right now.  The Birch trees that thieves are stealing today are "typically 3 to 7 years old", however the logging industry wouldn't be looking towards harvesting those trees until their maturity - around "65 years old".  So in theory - that $10.00 price that thieves are getting right now isn't easily calculable in future terms. Harris says "We're not getting anything for those stems.  They're stealing them.  They're taking that future tree that 65 years from now the county would be getting paid for."

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The main obstacle that law enforcement has with regards to Birch tree theft (or any tree theft for that matter) is that the trees grow in isolated, secluded wooded areas where sheriffs and other law officials don't regularly patrol.  That's why they depend upon tips from the general public to identify and commit these tree thieves.  "To report a suspected theft, contact the [Douglas County] Sheriff's office at 715-395-1230 or the Forestry Department at 715-378-2219.

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